Injured disabled rider wins compensation

  • A disabled rider, who fractured her spine in an accident at a riding school, has been awarded £45,000 in damages after a six-year battle

    A disabled woman who fractured her spine in a riding accident has won her six-year fight for damages against the local Riding for the Disabled Association group where she was learning to ride.

    Sarah Millson, 23, was awarded £45,000 damages by the High Court in London. The court heardshe had been attending a riding class at a stables specially designed to cater for the disabled when the accident happened in November 1996.

    Sarah, who has Downs Syndrome, was one of a group of pupils from Castle School, Newbury, Berks, taking a lesson at nearby Wyld Court Stables in the village of Hampstead Norreys, when her pony allegedly shied during a lesson.

    The incident is said to have taken place when Sarah, then 17, was taking part in an exercise to “post a letter” at the side of the school. Her pony had been on a leading rein when it had shied, the court was told.

    Compensation agreed

    Sarah’s lawyers alleged negligence by the organisers of the class, theNewbury Group of the Riding for the Disabled Association, and said that they had given her a “mount that was temperamentally unsuitable”.

    This was denied but in October last year, without any admission of liability, the Newbury Groupof the Riding for the Disabled Association agreed to compensate her on the basis of 25 per cent of a full valuation of her claim. Last week, Mr Justice Roderick Evans approved a £45,000 pay out which represented 25 per cent of the £180,000 she would have received on a full liability basis.

    Sarah Millson’s barrister Jonathan Hand, told the court that spinal fractures sustained in the fall resulted in “incomplete paraplegia”, while the long-term effect of the injury has been to restrict her mobility.

    Her solicitor Paul Paxton of Stewarts of London, said that all the money will be for Sarah’s benefit, and costs will be assessed separately. The money would be used for holidays or to make adaptations to the home.

    He said: “This is one of the lowest awards that I have come across, but because Sarah would already need a substantial amount of care, that is why it is relatively low.”

    Six-year battle

    Mr Paxton said there were two reasons why the case took six years to settle.

    “Firstly, liability was in dispute and no concessions were made until October 2001.

    “Secondly, because Sarah was suffering from two disabilities, Down’s Syndrome and spinal injuries, it was important to see how the injuries would affect her life.”

    Sarah’s mother, Susan Millson, said after the hearing: “Sarah was at Stoke Mandeville Hospital for seven months after the fall and if it was not for them she would not be walking now.”

    However, Sarah, who is attended by carers in the morning and at night, still needs a wheelchair for long journeys.

    Mrs Millson added: “I have not spoken to the riding group since the accident. I lost my husband just before the accident, and since the incident my son has died.

    All I ever wanted was that my daughter would be looked after. ”

    The RDA said that it would not comment on individual cases. However, since the 1997 Charities Act came into force, local groups have been registered charities in their own right but affiliated to the RDA as the umbrella organization and have associated insurance cover.

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